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Fully-automated tray sortation system boosts efficiency at TKL Tiefkuhllogistik.

New frozen food distribution center in Austria utilizes versatile, three-dimensional discharge trajectory mechanism that keeps volume flowing problem-free.

When it comes to fully automated tilt tray sortation systems, Beumer Corporation of Plainfield, New Jersey, USA, is never out of sorts. Its recent installation at TKL Tiefkuhllogistik AG's new frozen food distribution center in Vienna, Austria, is a case in point.

The human factor played a major role in the design, which allows for maximum throughput of 19,200 items per hour in a -20 [degrees] C (-4 [degrees] F) environment. The goal was to minimize the time spent by employees in low-temperature areas without compromising a seamless logistical chain for frozen food products of various sizes and weights. The solution called for separating the storage and order picking stations from the sorting and packing areas, and making use of state-of-the-art equipment.

Some 80% to 85% of the frozen food products handled by TKL are stored in a refrigerated warehouse at -30 [degrees] C (-22 [degrees] F). Orders are processed in five levels with three aisles each, according to the "pick-to-belt" principle. The picker walks from one pallet location to another, placing requested items on a belt conveyor in the center of the pick aisle. He is guided by a display on a movable cart that travels alongside the conveyor, and places each item accordingly.

Next, the picked items are forwarded to the sortation system, completely traced by a sophisticated tracking system. The whole process is paperless, without need for label application or bar code reading.

Frozen food cases or bags are forwarded to the sortation induction area via 15 transfer conveyor lines. The system consists of two Beumer 3D-Tilt Tray Sorter loops. By utilizing a gate conveyor in every induction line, products are automatically diverted to either the upper or lower sorter.

Each line consists of a set of individual conveyor sections to buffer, accelerate and finally induct the items at a 30 [degrees] angle onto one of the empty trays of the sorter. The computer-controlled process precisely centers each item on its tray, no matter if it's a large and heavy box containing ice cream or a small, lightweight bag holding frozen vegetables.

The total number of induction lines is 32. The sortation system has 110 two-level sort lanes, which makes for 220 destination lanes. By stacking both the two sorters and the destination lanes, overall warehouse space required for the system can be minimized.

Every destination lane consists of an inlet chute, de-acceleration conveyor, collecting conveyor, storage roller conveyor and a packing table. Length, width, and inclination of the components are made to provide optimum lane capacity while demanding minimum space.

Product is buffered on the collecting conveyor until an order is completed, and then transferred as a whole onto the storage roller conveyor and the packing table where manual loading onto roll containers takes place.

This design feature allows the packing of one order from the storage roller conveyor and packing table at the same time that a second order is buffered onto the collecting conveyor. Thus, dead time between two orders is minimized.

Product buffering as well as the transfer of a completed order from the collecting conveyor to the storage roller conveyor are controlled by the sorter control computer, and do not require any manual intervention.

The packing operator is informed about the status of each lane through a red and green light that signals when an order is ready for packing, or when both the collecting conveyor and the storage roller conveyor are full, thus requiring immediate action of a packer to avoid product recirculation on the sorter.

Beumer 3D tilt tray sorters feature an all-aluminum design of tilting elements, carriages and track system. This helps avoid stress encountered in systems with a combination of materials of different thermal expansion coefficients.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jul 1, 1996
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